A US fighter jet shoots down an unknown cylindrical object over Canada

By Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Steve Scherer

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) – A US F-22 fighter jet shot down an unidentified cylindrical object over Canada on Saturday, the second such incident in as many days, as North America appeared nervous after a week-long Chinese spy balloon saga that dragged on global limelight on itself.

Separately, the US military also used fighter jets in Montana to investigate a radar anomaly that prompted a brief federal airspace closure.

“These aircraft did not identify an object to correlate the radar hits with,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced the launch over the northern Yukon Territory on Saturday and said Canadian forces would recover and analyze the wreckage.

Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand declined to speculate on the origin of the object, which she believed was cylindrical.

She stopped calling it a balloon but said it was smaller than the Chinese balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina a week ago, although it looked similar.

At an altitude of 12,200 m (40,000 ft), it posed a risk to civilian air traffic and was shot down at 3:41 EST (2041 GMT), she added.

“There is no reason to believe that the object’s impact on Canadian territory is of public concern,” Anand said at a news conference.

The Pentagon said NORAD spotted the object over Alaska late Friday.

US fighter jets from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, monitored the object as it crossed into Canadian airspace, where Canadian CF-18 and CP-140 aircraft joined the formation.

“A US F-22 shot down the object in Canadian territory with an AIM 9X missile, following close coordination between US and Canadian authorities,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden authorized the US military to work with Canada to dismantle the high-altitude ship following a call between Biden and Trudeau, the Pentagon said.

The White House said Biden and Trudeau have agreed to continue close coordination to “defend our airspace.”

“Leaders discussed the importance of recovering the object to determine more details about its purpose or origin,” it said in a statement.

A day earlier, Biden had ordered another downing of an unidentified flying object near Deadhorse, Alaska.

On Saturday, the U.S. military remained tight-lipped about what, if anything, it had learned as salvage efforts on Alaskan sea ice were underway.

On Friday, the Pentagon gave few details, including that the object was the size of a small car, was flying at an altitude of about 40,000 feet (12,200 m), could not maneuver and appeared to be unmanned.

US officials have been trying to learn about the object since it was first spotted on Thursday.

“We currently have no further details on the object, including its capabilities, purpose or origin,” the Northern Command said Saturday.

Difficult arctic weather conditions have been mentioned, including wind chill, snow and limited daylight, which can hamper search and recovery.

“Staff will adjust recovery operations to ensure safety,” it added.

On February 4, after a week-long tour of the United States and parts of Canada, a US F-22 fighter jet downed what the US government has dubbed a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

China said it was a civilian research vessel.

Some US lawmakers have criticized Biden for not shooting down the Chinese balloon sooner. The US military had recommended waiting until it was over the ocean for fear of injury from falling debris.

Since the launch of the 60-meter-tall Chinese surveillance balloon, US personnel have been combing the ocean for debris and the undercarriage of electronic equipment.

The Pentagon said a significant portion of the balloon has already been recovered or located, suggesting American officials may soon have more information onboard about Chinese spy capabilities.

Sea conditions on Feb. 10 “permitted diving and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) activity and the recovery of additional debris from the seabed,” the Northern Command said.

“The public may see US Navy ships moving to and from the site while conducting unloading and resupply activities.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, David Shepardson, Andrea Shalal, Michael Martina, Richard Cowan in Washington, Steven Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by David Gregorio and Clarence Fernandez)


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